I recently hosted a Q&A on my instagram story, and I was so impressed with the thoughtful questions I received this time around! Someone asked “how do you hold on to your love without suffocating it?”, a question that has come up a number of times within my own relationship. My response received a lot of positive feedback and requests that I save the response for people to look back to, so I decided to type it up and expand on it in a blog post!
Please note that this advice may not be applicable to everyone. I write from my own perspective and draw from my own experience, so not everything will apply perfectly to all situations.
Answering this question is going to vary from one relationship to another, and it’s 100% about learning your partner’s needs and boundaries. What feels suffocating to one person might feel loving and reassuring to another, and that’s okay. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to relationships, and especially not when it comes to how we give and receive love.
It’s also important to actively communicate with your partner if you think you might be “suffocating” them. Oftentimes, this thought process is rooted in insecurity and fear of being overbearing. Checking in with your partner sooner rather than later is the best thing, because thoughts like that can build up and create anxiety and stress within a relationship. One of my favorite ways to practice open communication is to create a routine around regular check-ins, so that if you have any fears about discussing issues with your partner, there’s already a comfortable dedicated time to do so.
My partner and I regularly have conversations around how we express our love for one another, as well as healthy boundaries we maintain in our relationship. This is especially important for us now that we are together all the time in isolation, but it has been an important topic in our relationship since the beginning. Here are some conversation starters and guiding questions we use when we check in that have helped us in our relationship, and hopefully help you, too!
1. What things do I do that make you feel the most loved and cared for?
This question is my favorite way to open up these conversations about love and boundaries. It’s a gentle question – it prompts your partner to think about the ways you already make them feel loved, and it starts things off on a sweet and affirming note. When you share your own answers to the same question, it sets the tone of the conversation as one of gratitude for one another.
2. What things can I do to make you feel more loved?
This question might elicit many different types of responses. Your partner might name a specific action they would like to see from you, such as reading with them before bed, or they may share a certain feeling they want more, like that they want to be comforted more often when they’re upset. They might also share boundaries that they need you to meet – for example, they might need a little more quiet time in the morning before they get out of bed instead of chatting with you right away.
Whatever their response might be, remember that this conversation is meant to be constructive and helpful; see if you can work together as a team to make sure both of your wants are being met!
3. Have you been feeling connected to yourself lately?
This has been such an important question for me and my partner. We find that when we are more connected to ourselves, we are able to show up for each other more. For me personally, when I have enough alone time to recharge, I come back to my partner in a more patient, loving, and calm mindset.
4. Is there anything we can work on in our relationship to help you feel more connected to yourself?
For example, making space for more alone time, creating a journaling habit that you stick to together, or an exercise routine. Anything that you can do to support them can help strengthen your relationship overall!
5. Are there any boundaries you’d like to set with me?
Having boundaries within a relationship can feel foreign or unfamiliar, especially for people who grew up in a cultural environment where there was no sense of boundaries. However, boundaries are an important part of any relationship dynamic to protect it and ensure that each partner can grow.
Setting aside time to discuss boundaries regularly can make these conversations feel easier and more familiar, even if the topic is more serious. Boundaries can be as simple as your partner not wanting you to bring up certain parts of their life in front of other people, or more detailed, like emotional boundaries to avoid certain triggers. However they might look, your partner’s boundaries (and yours!) are important and deserve to be respected.
I want to add that learning to set and respect boundaries might be new to some people, and that they deserve patience and grace as they learn; however, be mindful of if you can see them making a concerted effort to practice and grow with you!
6. How am I doing at respecting the boundaries we already have?
I add this question in because I firmly believe in the power of showing appreciation and positive reinforcement. I learned early on in my relationship that celebrating the things my partner does right, rather than pointing out what she does that upsets me, makes us both feel much more confident in our bond.
Taking the time to ask this question will allow your partner to reflect with you on things that are going well, and how you’ve both grown as you continue to learn and explore your relationship with mutual respect. Better yet, get into the practice of complimenting your partner in the moment when you notice them going out of their way to be mindful of your boundaries!
If you try these conversation starters out, or if you have your own that you like to use, let me know in the comments below how they work for you!
I’m considering turning this into a column format, where I answer short or open-ended questions from you guys with articles. If that’s something you’re interested in, drop a comment below to let me know. If you have a question you’d like me to answer, please shoot me an email with the subject line “Relationship Advice Column” at firstname.lastname@example.org. Share your question, name, and city (or “anonymous”, if that’s how you’d like to be identified) in the body of the email.